Christmas adverts are adding glitter to the TV schedules, the days are getting shorter and Starbucks have released their festive drinks. All this can only mean one thing – winter is fast approaching. Winter can be a really exciting period for the residents in your care home, with visits from friends and family and cosy days singing carols together; but it can also be difficult to navigate if you’re caught without a plan to get you through the colder months. Here’s our guide for ensuring your care home is well prepared for the winter season.
A winter contingency care home plan is key
Your contingency plan should be well thought out and comprehensive, ensuring that your home is well equipped to deal with any of the obstacles that the colder weather might throw your way. This will include a plan for emergencies, as well as a plan in case a sudden lockdown should be announced, including anticipating how you will manage staffing, supplies, food etc. – essentially, anything that your care home relies upon should be accounted for within the plan.
Crucially, your contingency plan will never work effectively if only you know it. It’s your responsibility to ensure that all members of staff are aware of the plan and when and how it might need to be actioned.
If we’re graced with any snow this year, you’re going to want to have salt on hand to make the ground safe for staff, residents, relatives, delivery drivers and emergency vehicles who might need to access your care home.
When was your boiler last checked?
There’s nothing worse than having a broken heater during the winter. If you ensure that your boiler has been checked by a qualified professional now, you may be able to avoid a disastrous situation in the coming months.
Flu vaccination and COVID boosters
Your staff are probably well versed with getting their yearly flu jab, but it’s never a bad idea to put out a friendly reminder letting them know that the time is upon them to get it again – it’s imperative to keeping your residents safe and it will also help to manage staff sickness levels to ensure you have a large enough workforce to get through the coming months. It’s also your responsibility to ensure the residents in your home get access to get theirs.
This year, there’s an extra vaccination to think about – the COVID booster. All frontline health service professionals and people over 50 qualify – with up-to-date vaccinations having become compulsory for care home staff from 11 November this year – so make sure your staff and residents have booked theirs.
Have you got enough staff to keep your care home running effectively?
Every winter, countless care homes are left with precariously low staffing levels – often a result of a combination of winter illnesses and a high number of annual leave requests – forcing them to rely on costly agency carers. Don’t cut corners; hire additional staff now, if you anticipate that you might need them, to ensure that they’re trained and ready to be put in action over winter. Despite the recruitment and training costs, it will probably end up saving you money in the long run!
It’s also a good idea to look at the training of your current staff force as well. If you notice that there are any areas that could use topping up, send your staff on training days now to ensure they’re informed and ready for the more demanding months of the year as a carer.
Health reviews of your care home residents
It’s good practice to do a health review of all of your residents before winter, as we know that these are the months when residents are more likely to get sick. Identifying anyone who might be especially vulnerable will leave you best placed to safeguard them effectively.
This is the fun aspect of the winter months. For many residents, the activities you hold around Christmas will be some of the highlights of their year, so get planning now to make the most of the festive season. Although large visits from outside groups, such as school choirs, might still be difficult amid the ongoing coronavirus levels in the UK, you should be able to welcome smaller groups who will bring lots of Christmas cheer to the home.
Christmas is one of the busiest periods of the year for welcoming visitors, with many loved ones wanting to see their relatives as close to Christmas Day as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be possible to welcome everyone on Christmas Eve, so start organising a visiting rota on a first-come-first-served basis now to ensure that no one is disappointed.
Review your Infection Prevention and Control (IPC)
A good IPC plan is going to be crucial in preventing the outbreak of illness within your home, helping to keep residents and staff safe. Reviewing yours early will help ensure that you’re in a good position going into the months where illnesses are more common.